Airflow issues are among the most common Home, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) problems. Restricted airflow causes your HVAC system to struggle in its effort to consistently deliver the desired home temperature. If you feel like your home has HVAC airflow issues, you are probably correct.
Some common issues include:
- Hot and cold temperature spots throughout your home
- Weak or low airflow from vents in your home, whether throughout the house, or possibly one or more vents not blowing air properly
- Warm air coming from vents when cool air should be blowing
- A pressure imbalance, signaled by drafty areas, doors slamming by themselves, or strange whistling noises.
These are typical signs of air pressure problems caused by poor airflow in an HVAC system. The good news is that many of the causes behind HVAC airflow issues are easy to remedy and can improve the overall comfort of your home. Here are some questions to help you identify the culprit to poor airflow:
Are any output vents or registers blocked or closed?
When looking, check a warmer room first. Make sure all vents and registers are open and not blocked by furniture. This issue is common in a home when people don’t agree on the thermostat setting. For example, a bookcase, rug, or other items moved in front of or on top of an AC vent because someone is too cold can lead to your HVAC airflow being compromised.
To effectively cool and heat your home, air needs to be able to enter all rooms and move about freely. Air is pumped into rooms by vents usually located near the floors or on the ceiling. These vents often include a closeable damper or grate on them. This does allow you to block air flow (which IS a bad idea unless it is a temporary occurrence).
If the vents or registers are blocked, open them. In a few minutes you should feel the desired air temperature coming from the vent. If not, keep looking and checking the vents and registers throughout your home.
Are the return register filters dirty and clogged?
Air filters have the job of removing dust, dander and debris from the air returning to the unit. These filters help keep daily household dirt out of the HVAC equipment and from building up in your ductwork. If the filter gets too dirty or heavily clogged, they can slow the HVAC system’s airflow. Dirty filters can cause smells and uncomfortable temperatures throughout your home. Debris in the HVAC equipment can damage and wear out parts. Check and change your AC filter according to the manufacturer’s instructions, or earlier depending on your household and your system usage. That could easily mean changing air filters as frequently as once a month. Try using inexpensive filters so that they get clogged less and replace the filters whenever they appear dirty to help mitigate future airflow issues.
Is the condenser unit obstructed?
A common HVAC airflow issue, which you can fix, requires your inspection and clearing away, or cleanup of the area around the HVAC or air conditioning systems condensing unit. Outside, do not let dirt, yard tools, toys, or other debris gather or block the units air intake and output. Keep things off, away from, and out of the unit. For HVAC systems housed in mechanical rooms check to see if the condensing unit is obstructed by other equipment, storage items, piles of laundry, etc.
Your system can overheat when there’s not enough airflow to the air unit so keep the area clear so it can do the proper work to keep your home operating efficiently and effectively.
Do you have thermostat issues?
Run through a thermostat check to ensure proper settings to keep your home comfortable. Is there a battery you can replace? If so, see if that simple step helps solve the airflow problem. You may even consider a thermostat upgrade. A programmable model can help schedule room temperatures throughout the day, and offer other features useful for efficient cooling and heating.
Is there a visible break, tear, or other malfunction in the ductwork?
If you can safely review the ductwork, you may find a sagging, open, or torn duct allowing air to escape into the wrong places. Some of these situations may be easily repaired by the homeowner, or the comfort or expertise levels may dictate that it is time for a professional.
SEE ALSO: When Good Ductwork Goes Bad
At what point does a homeowner call for professional service?
There are some tasks you may be comfortable with tackling on your own. Unfortunately, you may not be able to see or fix your problem yourself. The complex configuration of more modern cooling or HVAC systems may require an expert to service the system due to safety, or even manufacturer or home warranties. Once you decide you have done all you can, and there are still air flow issues, it’s time to call an HVAC technician.
A quality, routine maintenance inspection offers a thorough assessment of the components of the unit, by testing, cleaning, and making any recommendations about repairs. Among the services offered, a technician may check airflow pressures throughout your home, replace air filters, inspect for ductwork sags, tears, leaks or critter damage, clean the fan blades and coils in the unit, inspect, test and adjust motors, and inspect the HVAC configuration and design for efficient air delivery to all parts of your home.
What should I do in the future to care for my HVAC unit?
As a homeowner, commit to protecting and maintaining your HVAC system. Although HVAC airflow issues have many causes, you can avoid big problems by being proactive at the first sign of concern. If you want to keep your air flow consistent and your system clean, then be proactive and perform maintenance like cleaning and replacing filters, monitoring dampers, keeping vents cleared, and protecting ducts from damage. To ignore the problem can place damaging strain on your system. Why face expensive repairs or even need a new unit, unless it’s unavoidable? Some common issues are easy to correct, others may take a little time, cash, or technical help to remedy.
If you do all of these and you are still having problems, contact a professional. A survey of how rooms are used and how often, coupled with an examination of ductwork may reveal undersized ducts, or even an over-sized unit. The technician can make recommendations and discuss plans to return your home to optimum working order. Consider a twice-yearly maintenance and service checkup by a reputable and responsive HVAC company.